It's hard to find a video game that's more iconic than the original Doom. Even ignoring the fact that it essentially kick-started an entire genre, Id Software's first-person shooter revolutionized the gaming landscape back in the mid-'90s.

Now, after more than 10 years since the last game, Doom is back. Gone are the dimly-lit hallways and jump scares of the third installment, as these have been replaced by the high-speed and over-the-top weapons of the first two games. On paper, it sounds like everything that a Doom fan could possibly want — and yet, after the game's official reveal at last year's E3 conference, Id Software's reboot was met with quite a bit of criticism.

Bringing such an influential series back into the limelight is no easy task, especially when the genre it helped create has changed so much over the past few years. Has Id Software somehow brought Doom back from the dead, or should the series have stayed in development hell?

NOTE: Due to our limited time with the game, we haven't had time to fully analyze Doom's PvP modes or level-creation tools. As such, we'll only be discussing the single-player portion of the game in this review (though you should totally check out SnapMap).

The story of Doom is basically nonexistent. Players start the game as an unnamed space marine and proceed to kill a whole bunch of demons before trying to stop Hell from taking over the universe. There are only two other survivors to speak of, and neither get much in the way of screen time. Simply put, the guns you'll bring into battle show more progression than any of the actual characters.

It may sound strange, but for the most part, this sort of approach works. Codex entries and hidden audio logs are there for lore hounds to track down, but Id Software knew that most Doom fans would just want to shoot demons — the story never gets in the way of gameplay, and it's definitely for the best.

The only place where the narrative falters is during the ending. Doom doesn't really have a conclusion — yes, the game ends, but none of the lingering plot threads are ever addressed. It's not just a bad ending, it's a lazy one: Doom features the sort of sequel-baiting cliffhanger that the industry largely abandoned years ago. Finishing the game isn't satisfying, and it's not fun — if anything, Doom's ending feels more like a cop-out than anything else.

In terms of gameplay, Doom is nothing but shooting. Seriously: you will do nothing but shoot demons throughout the entire campaign. There are no vehicles, turret sections or out-of-place puzzles — just guns, explosives and hordes of bad guys. That may sound like a bad thing, but that focus means that Doom's gunplay is among the best in the industry.

The weaponry is what steals the show. The guns of Doom aren't anything new — most of the firearms return from the classic games — but they're so satisfying to use that the lack of any real innovation is easy to ignore. Each weapon has its own role, and players are encouraged to constantly switch back and forth during fights. It's a well-designed system, and it certainly helps that each and every gun is extremely fun to use.

Doom's various demons also do a lot to keep the shooting from getting stale. Much like the weapons, each monstrosity fulfills a specific role, and the game does a fantastic job of throwing different enemy combinations at players. True, you'll fight the same dozen or so enemy types across the 10-plus hour campaign, but the game constantly uses these enemies in new and interesting ways.

The game's different arenas are also extremely well-designed. Doom does a fantastic job of teaching players the layout of the level in a matter of seconds, then rewards them for taking advantage of it. Some of these arena-style fights can go on for a bit too long (especially toward the end of the game), but they're a welcome change of pace from the corridor-heavy shooters of recent years. When you aren't trapped in an arena full of bloodthirsty demons, the game's quieter moments can lead to numerous secret areas: even after the fighting dies down, players still have a reason to explore their environment.

Traversal also plays a large role, and despite some occasional hiccups, the game's emphasis on fast-paced action and vertical movement keeps the shooting from feeling too repetitive. Climbing onto ledges never feels as fluid as similar mechanics found in other games, but these infrequent annoyances are easy to ignore when the game is moving at such an unrelenting pace.

Doom's mechanics may be simple, but that's what makes the game so engaging. It's not about fighting the controls or figuring out which gun to use on which enemy — Doom is about shooting and nothing else. The lack of variety may turn some players off, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a shooter that's as polished or downright fun to play as Id Software's latest.

If the idea of endlessly blowing demons into tiny chunks isn't enough of a draw already, Id Software's new progression system does help add some depth to the proceedings. Player upgrades come in one of four flavors: Weapon mods, Argent energy, Praetor abilities and Runes.

Weapon mods are relatively straightforward: finding upgrade drones will unlock new attachments for your guns, which are further improved with upgrade points. Argent energy grants players extra health, armor or ammo bonuses — and while they're not nearly as plentiful as weapon upgrades, they make a huge difference in the long run.

Praetor abilities govern the player's passive skills, such as upgraded radar or damage reduction. Runes add a secondary layer of passive buffs and can be upgraded by completing certain objectives in combat — though players will have to hunt down optional challenge rooms to unlock them in the first place.

For a game that focuses so much on making the player feel powerful, the upgrade system is a great way to encourage both aggressive play and exploration. It may sound like a lot to handle on paper, but tracking down new items and mods is fun — and it's hard to beat the satisfaction of fully upgrading your favorite weapon. Upgrading your weapons and abilities is exactly the sort of extra layer that Doom needed to keep from feeling stale, and Id Software knocked it out of the park.

From a visual standpoint, Doom looks fantastic — though there are a few rough spots. A select few textures look somewhat muddy, and the numerous UAC facilities that players make their way through start to feel a bit too similar by the end of the game.

Honestly, though ... that's about it. Doom's art style is a standout: the updated versions of classic demons all look amazing, and it's hard not to giggle after you blow an Imp into pieces with a well-timed shotgun blast. Speaking of the weapons, the guns of Doom go above and beyond making the player feel like a walking tank. The BFG 9000 is, unsurprisingly, a visual spectacle — watching a ball of energy ravage everything on the screen with a shower of lightning and sparks is something that never gets old.

What's even more impressive is that, even with demons and particle effects and explosions covering the screen, Doom never misses a beat. A few dropped frames and occasional clipping issues are nothing compared with the carnage that players can cause. For the vast majority of our time with the game, the engine held up, no matter what was happening on the screen.

The game's audio also holds up, though it's not nearly as memorable as the visuals. What's surprising is that, out of the entire audio package, the music seems to be the most forgettable part of the experience. Classic Doom soundtracks were all about heavy metal — and while some great tracks did make it in, most of the soundtrack is dominated by more industrial-style music, and it doesn't carry the same weight. It's not bad (and personal tastes will vary), but it's not all that impressive, either.

Doom is, in many ways, a near-perfect example of how to update an old franchise for new players. The gameplay mechanics of classic Doom games haven't simply returned, they've been improved upon: the gunplay is better than most games in the genre, the reworked enemy designs are fantastic and the new progression systems add more replayability than ever.

Granted, the new Doom isn't a perfect game: the story ends up falling flat on its face, and anyone looking for more variety may be disappointed. Even so, these shortcomings aren't nearly enough to bring the experience down.

If you're a fan of shooters, you'd be doing yourself a disservice by not playing Doom. It doesn't really matter if you loved the classic games, or have never killed a demon before: Doom isn't just a good shooter, it manages to set itself apart in a genre that its predecessors helped create.

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